Thursday, March 26, 2009

Game #74

Captain K Saves the Day After Habs Squander Their Chances

The Canadiens Game in Review

Date: Thursday March 26th, 2009
Opponent: Tampa Bay Lightning
Venue: Bell Centre, Montreal, QC

Team Stripes

Final Score: 3-2 - Win (OT)

Habs starting goalie: Carey Price (W)
Opposition starting goalie: Karri Ramo (L)

Habs goalscorers: Alexei Kovalev, Guillaume Latendresse, Saku Koivu
Opposition goalscorers: David Koci, Lukas Krajicek



Play of the game
The play you're straining to see on the press catwalk monitor...

Saku's goal was the most crucial, but for me it wasn't the play of the game. I am bestowing that honour upon Latendresse for what was a spectacular goal. He showed his true nose for the net on this one and also showed how he can use his strength and positioning to make up for his lack of speed. The play started with Gui rushing down the left wing and beating his man to the outside. Ramo bit and went down, Gui kept going around the net. With his soft hands he wrapped it into what was a wide open net.



Game puck
Trophies are for the end of the year, play well in the game, you get a lovely puck...

Andrei Markov
Markov was on the ice for both of Tampa's goals and did get beat pretty bad on their first. His play, however, for the rest of the game was phenomenal. He had great vision with the puck and was the main reason why the Habs had a strong breakout game. He was also very strong offensively as he chipped in with 2 more assists and now has 50 on the year. Markov played over 29 minutes of hockey and quarter-backed a very sharp looking PP for over 11 minutes.



Dome hockey team
We're going into the last minute with these 6 (and they're attached to the ice, so they're not coming off)...

Forwards

Alexei Kovalev
Whatever Bob said to Alex or whatever Alex said to Alex last month during his 'rest' is surely paying off now. He once again was one of our best players tonight as he out-did Vinny and St. Louis at the Bell Centre for a change. Since that break he has 13 points in 13 games and is obviously getting hot at the right time. Tonight he was held to a single goal, but could have had quite a few more had Ramo not played so well.

Saku Koivu
With 13 points in his last 15 Saku is also getting hot at the right time of the year. Tonight he pivoted our most effective trio as they were often (especially on the PP) too much for Tampa to handle. He did well to stay with the puck on the winner as he did what we are told to do since we are kids - put the puck on net. It wasn't pretty, but it was 2 points. The game-winner was his third in our last 6 wins; all 3 being 1-goal wins. It was his 2nd OT-winner for Gainey the coach.

Alex Tanguay
I wouldn't dream about leaving the third member of this line off tonight as he too was very good. He quietly went about his business of making great passes. He didn't match last game's 5 points, but did chip in with 1. He was great at gaining the zone and then doing something constructive with the puck - mostly hitting a wide-open trailer.

Defencemen

Andrei Markov
What a game, what a season. Tonight was just a sample of what this player has brought us this year. He has been our most consistent player all season and also our best. Tonight he reached the 50-assist and 60-point plateaus for the first time in his career. League-wide he is 1st in helpers and 2nd in points among blue-liners and must be a serious candidate for the Norris. In his past 17 games he has a very impressive 18 points.

Mathieu Schneider
One thing that I noticed tonight (obviously not for the first time) was that Mat can really shoot. Now shooting is 3 parts - power, placement and timing - and Schneider not only possesses all of those qualities, but he excels at them. After Markov there is no other D-Man on the team who even has any 2 of those. He was very effective on the PP and his 1 point on the night was well below what it should/could have been.

Goaltender

Carey Price
With 2 shots to face in the first and only 6 in the second Carey was not a busy man. He, however, did exactly as we needed and that was not let anything by him. The worst thing a goalie can do when he faces so few shots is to let a soft one in. Price played solidly and remained focused despite what might have seemed like a boring 40 minutes from his point of view. The Lightning picked it up a bit in the third as they took a whopping 11 shots to give them 19 on the night (they had 0 in OT). Carey was beaten twice, but I can't fault his style on either as he was there. The team looked comfortable in front of him, but more importantly he looked comfortable in his net as he picked up a 2nd straight win.



Eye-Openers
In this new section we are going to try and shed some light on certain plays or events that would otherwise go unnoticed

Are you still haunted by Bill Lindsay taking a defensive zone draw in the 2002 playoffs for the Habs? I am. Tonight we had a similar situation as in OT Tampa had won an offensive (our defensive) zone face-off. Gainey, realizing the importance of the extra point - after seeing that Florida had won their game - played this one very careful, but very smartly. He looked down his bench and decided to send out 2 centres. He didn't go with the 2 best face-off men on the night (Lapierre and Metropolit - Alou would say they were due for a loss anyway), but instead he went for his 2 worst. Saku, however, is the best Hab on the season and is top-20 league-wide. He knew the importance of winning the draw (even if there was a false-start), but of also controlling the play in the offensive zone. By putting on two of his top-6 forwards (top-4 really with Andrei out) he was icing a very potent duo to counter Vinny and Marty. The two rewarded Bob for his foresight with a big face-off win and a great give and go that was the foundation for the goal. I like the play because it is cautious, but also because he didn't concede the flow of play to Tampa's top guns, instead he countered with two of his best - and it paid off.


Overall Comments

The Habs started the game very strong in what looked like a continuation of Tuesday night's effort. They got right on top of Tampa in the first period and it paid its dividends. Within minutes we had had a few quality chances, had gotten the crowd behind us and had kept all Lightning players over 100' away from Price. The hard work paid off over and over again with Tampa penalty upon Tampa penalty. Our 4th line proved their worth as each of the three players drew a penalty to let our big boys go to work. The rest of the first period and the whole second period went this way. The main problem, however, was that we only were able to take a one goal lead. I have seen too many examples of a team (us) failing to capitalize on their chances and eventually letting a game they should have won slip away. Guillaume didn't like the idea of a 1-0 lead and with his goal did his best to ensure the 2 points. The Lightning didn't give up though and within minutes the game was tied. A nervous group of Habs played the last 5 minutes not for the win, but for OT. It was obvious we were scared of Tampa scoring a third as we started playing 'defensively'. This style of play does not suit the Habs and the game (and all points) was almost lost then and there. OT, however, was a different story as we, knowing we had at least 1 point, looked more comfortable. We went back to attacking and came very close a couple of times before seeing the winner take two bounces then ending up in the back of the net. This is a game we should've won and is something we can celebrate...until the morning. We have a very important game against Buffalo on Saturday night, so there is no more looking back.

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